Bharara: Paul Manafort could 'flip' and 'cooperate' with the government

Former U.S. Attorney Preet BhararaPreetinder (Preet) Singh BhararaBudowsky: If Dems win control of Congress The Hill's Morning Report: Trump’s allies turn against him The Hill's Morning Report — Battle lines drawn as Trump and Cohen dig in MORE said Sunday that former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Ex-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report Former White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report MORE, who was charged last week in a federal indictment, could "flip" and cooperate with the government.

During an interview on CNN, Bharara was asked about special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to get the former Trump campaign chairman to be more cooperative on issues of collusion.

Bharara said the first thing you do in an investigation is to hold people accountable for crimes they commit.

"And if there's evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, that you can prove to a unanimous jury, like they believe they can here on these money laundering and other charges, they bring it," he said.

"Now, a consequence of that can be, if there are other charges they want to bring against someone else, then maybe Paul Manafort will, in the parlance that we use in law enforcement, flip and cooperate with the government."

Bharara said sometimes that can happen before the charge is brought.

"Sometimes though, after people's minds get focused because a criminal charge is brought to bear on them, they have to retain counsel, they go to court," he said.

"They're confronted with the enormity of what is facing them, meaning the loss of their liberty — they sometimes flip then."

He was pressed on whether he thinks there is a good chance Manafort will go to jail.

Bharara said the charges against Manafort are pretty straightforward.

"It's not lifetime in prison, but it's a substantial prison sentence, and I expect that Paul Manafort and his lawyers are talking about the idea of cooperating with Bob Mueller," he said.

He added: "They may never do it."

Manafort was charged last week with conspiracy against the U.S., tax fraud and money laundering in the first indictment to come from Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The 12-count indictment includes five counts against Manafort’s former business partner and protégé, Richard Gates, who was ousted from the pro-Trump group America First Policies in April.